When you are offered a "rate lock" from your lender, it means that you are guaranteed to keep a set interest rate over a determined period while you work on your application process. This saves you from getting through your whole application process and learning at the end that your interest rate has gone up.
Rate lock periods can vary in length, anywhere from 15 to 60 days, with the longer spans typically costing more. A lending institution can agree to lock in an interest rate and points for a longer span of time, like 60 days, but in exchange, the rate (and sometimes points) will be higher than that of a rate lock of fewer days.
There are other ways to get a lower rate, in addition to agreeing to a shorter rate lock period. A larger down payment will result in a lower interest rate, since you're starting out with a good deal of equity. You can pay points to reduce your rate over the loan term, meaning you pay more initially. One strategy that makes financial sense for many people is to pay points to improve the interest rate over the term of the loan. You will pay more up front, but you will come out ahead in the long run.
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